The Submarine Hunters - A Story of the Naval Patrol Work in the Great War
160 Pages
English

The Submarine Hunters - A Story of the Naval Patrol Work in the Great War

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Published 08 December 2010
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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Submarine Hunters, by Percy F. Westerman This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Submarine Hunters A Story of the Naval Patrol Work in the Great War Author: Percy F. Westerman Illustrator: E. S. Hodgson Release Date: September 16, 2008 [EBook #26641] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE SUBMARINE HUNTERS *** Produced by Al Haines Cover art "THE BLACK CROSS FLAG WAS HAULED DOWN, AND REHOISTED UNDER THE WHITE ENSIGN" The Submarine Hunters A Story of Naval Patrol Work in the Great War BY PERCY F. WESTERMAN Author of "Rounding Up the Raider" "The Dispatch-Riders" "The Fight for Constantinople" &c. &c. Illustrated by E. S. Hodgson BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY 1918 Contents CHAP. I. THE MYSTERIOUS MEETING ON ST. MENA'S ISLAND II. THE TABLES TURNED III. KIDNAPPED IV. THE AWAKENING V. ABOARD U75 VI. THE TRAMP VII. ON THE BED OF THE SEA VIII. BALKED BY A SEA-PLANE IX. THE LANDING AT PORT TREHERNE X. A TREACHEROUS PLOT XI. PREPARATIONS XII. THE WHITE FLAG—AND AFTERWARDS XIII. THE ARM OF THE LAW XIV. A FRUITLESS QUEST XV. THE ADMIRAL WORKS THE ORACLE XVI. H.M.S. "CAPELLA" XVII. A DOUBLE BAG XVIII. XIX. XX. XXI. XXII. XXIII. XXIV. XXV. XXVI. XXVII. XXVIII. XXIX. XXX. THE SMOKE-SIGNALS THAT FRIDAY NIGHT TO THE RESCUE ADRIFT IN THE CHANNEL AN UNEXPECTED CAPTURE MINED "SHRAP" OFF THE BELGIAN COAST DISABLED IN MID-AIR NOT ON PAROLE ALMOST RECAPTURED BOUND FOR THE BALTIC THE AFFAIR OFF KIEL Illustrations "THE BLACK CROSS FLAG WAS HAULED DOWN AND RE-HOISTED UNDER THE WHITE ENSIGN" . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece THE INTERVIEW WITH THE GERMAN CAPTAIN (missing from book) "'D'YE KEN YON?' ASKED THE BRITISH SKIPPER, AS HE EYED THE PODGY GERMAN LEUTNANT WITH CONTEMPT" "THE 'TREMENDOUS' WAS HEADING STRAIGHT FOR THE DOOMED SUBMARINE" THE SINKING OF THE "ORONTABELLA" (missing from book) "THE WORK OF DEMOLITION WAS ACCOMPLISHED" THE SUBMARINE HUNTERS CHAPTER I The Mysterious Meeting on St. Mena's Island "We've made a proper mess of things this time!" ejaculated Ross Trefusis—"or rather I have." "It can't be helped," rejoined his chum, Vernon Haye. "We've done our level best to get her off. How long is it before the tide floats her?" "A matter of seven or eight hours, worse luck. You see, it was only half ebb when we landed." Ross bent down to remove a streak of bluish-grey mud from his ankle. "I wish we'd taken the rowing-boat instead of this heavy old tub," he continued. "We'll be pretty peckish before we get back to the Hall, and dinner's at seven-thirty." Vernon laughed. "It wouldn't be the first time I've had to go without grub," he remarked. "If you don't mind, I don't." "Then it's no use standing here," said Ross. "Let's get on our shoes and go for a stroll." Vernon Haye was a broad-shouldered lad of fifteen, with clear-cut features and dark hair. His companion was of about the same age, but a good two inches taller. His complexion was florid, his hair of an auburn tint that narrowly escaped coming within the category of red or ginger. His features were full and rounded. In short, he was a typical Cornish youth. Ross's father, Admiral Paul Trefusis, lived at Killigwent Hall, a large, rambling, sixteenth-century house, standing within a mile of the sea on the North Cornish coast. Both lads went to the same public school, but owing to the fact that Vernon's father, Captain Haye, was on active service with the Grand Fleet, young Haye was spending the summer holidays with his chum at Killigwent Hall. That afternoon the lads had taken a small sailing-boat and had made for St. Mena's Island, a small rocky piece of land lying about a mile off shore, and nearly five miles from Killigwent Cove. The island was roughly three-quarters of a mile in length, and four hundred yards wide in the broadest part. The north and west sides were precipitous, but on the side nearest to the mainland the ground sloped gradually, and was indented by several narrow tidal coves. The glamour of romance lay thickly around that rocky pile. Centuries ago it was the abode of a hermit, who, amongst his various self-imposed tasks, had built a chapel on the summit, from the tower of which a wood fire was kindled nightly to warn mariners of the treacherous reefs in the vicinity of the island. In course of time, St. Mena's Island became the haunt of wreckers and smugglers. The chapel, in spite of its massive construction, fell a victim to the ravages of wind and weather, but still served as a convenient shelter for the lawless Cornishmen who profited by the misfortunes of honest seamen. Immune from interference, by reason of the superstitious awe in which the island was held by the country-folk, the smugglers and wreckers thrived exceedingly until late in the eighteenth century, when stern measures were taken to suppress their misdeeds. From that time St. Mena's Island was deserted, except for the casual visits of tourists and summer visitors from the neighbouring towns of Padstow and Newquay, and countless numbers of sea-birds that take up their abode in crannies in the almost inaccessible cliffs. Ross Trefusis was right in taking the blame of their misfortunes upon himself. He knew better, but, neglecting to take ordinary precautions, he had allowed the boat to be left high and dry by the falling tide. Upon returning to the cove the lads had found the heavy craft lying on its bilge in the stiff bluish clay, with a ridge of jagged rocks cutting her off from the sea. "Perhaps," suggested Vernon, "some other boat will put off to the island, and we can get them to put us ashore." "Hardly likely," was the reply. "Anyway, we'll keep a look-out. Which would you prefer to do—explore the Smugglers' Cave and Dead Man's Cave, or climb up to the ruins?" "The ruins," decided young Haye eagerly. "I like fooling about old ruins, and I've already seen the caves. Besides, we can see if there are any boats about. It's almost like being shipwrecked on a desert island." "Hard lines if we were," commented Ross. "Suppose we take an inventory of our possessions? Let the see: one pocket-knife, a silver watch that has refused duty, a notebook and pencil, and five shillings and three halfpence. What have you to add to the common stock?" "A knife, a pocket compass, my watch—which does go; it's now five-and-twenty to four—and sixteen shillings and eightpence in paper money and hard coin." "Not a morsel of grub between the pair of us, then," declared Ross. "Outlook beastly unpromising. Faced with starvation unless we make up our minds to knock over some gulls. They are horribly fishy to eat, I believe, and we've nothing to make a fire." "It makes you pine for the flesh-pots of Kllligwent Hall, old man," exclaimed Vernon laughingly. "Never mind, let's make a move. I vote we get rid of these sweaters. It is frightfully hot." Stripping off their woollen garments, and placing them for safety under a gorse bush, the two lads made their way up the steep ascent to the ruins, till, hot and well-nigh breathless in spite of being "in training", they reached the summit of the island. "What a jolly view!" exclaimed Vernon, turning and taking in the panorama of rocky coast-line, an expanse of jagged, frowning, brownish cliffs topped by the brilliant green of the Cornish moorland. "Not bad," agreed Ross complaisantly, for the view was no stranger to him. "See that cliff shaped like the head and shoulders of a bearded man? That's Hidden Money Cove that I was speaking to you about last night. We'll go there next week, all being well. You see, there's not a sail in sight, so our chances of getting back to dinner are very remote. What's more, unless I'm very much mistaken, there's a rain-storm coming. See that dark cloud working up against the wind?" "Yes," assented Haye. "What of it? A little rain won't hurt." "It's the after effect," said Ross. "It's quite possible it may blow hard before night, in which case we're done for. I've known it impossible to approach Killigwent Cove for a week at a time." Vernon whistled. "Sounds lively," he remarked. "Of course that is in the winter," his chum hastened to remind him. "These summer gales don't last very long, but we'll be feeling precious hungry by the time we get home, I guess." "Look here," said Vernon after a while. "I vote we get those sweaters. We don't want to be soaked." "Very well," assented Ross. "But there's no great hurry." Having retrieved the sweaters, the chums leisurely retraced their way to the ruins. For half an hour or more they wandered around the remains, descending into the dark crypt, and running considerable risk in climbing to the summit of the tower. Since the spiral stone steps had vanished long ago, the only means of getting to the top was by climbing the gnarled stem of the ivy which grew profusely on the face of the building. The tower was roofless, a low, partly demolished parapet encircling it on three sides, while a couple of weather-worn oak-beams supporting a few planks formed a kind of platform where the roof formerly existed. "Think it's safe?" asked Vernon anxiously, as his chum, having got astride the parapet, was about to lower himself upon the decrepit woodwork. "I've done it scores of times," said Ross confidently. "That's right, I'll guide your foot. Now let go." "By Jove!" suddenly exclaimed Haye; "there's a fellow coming towards the ruin. How on earth did he get here?" "Goodness only knows," said Trefusis inconsequently. "He may have landed in Main Beach Cove. Anyhow, he's at perfect liberty to do so. I suppose he's interested in ruins." "Let's drop a bit of stone and give him a shock when he gets here," suggested Vernon. "We'll apologize afterwards. Ten to one he'll give us a passage back." "I'm not so keen on dropping chunks of stone," objected Ross. "I vote we lie low for a bit at any rate, and see what he's up to." "Why, do you think he's a spy?" asked his companion. Trefusis grunted scoffingly. "Spy?" he repeated. "What object would a spy have on St. Mena's Island? This part of Cornwall is well outside the military area. There's nothing in the fortification line for miles. No, it's not that. But cave, here he comes." The lads crouched behind the crumbling parapet, and by means of conveniently placed gaps in the masonry watched the stranger's approach. There was nothing about the man's appearance to suggest that he was anything but an ordinary holiday-maker. He was slightly above average height, rather heavily built, and inclined to flabbiness. His complexion was undoubtedly florid, although his face and hands were tanned a deep brown. He was dressed in a light-grey lounge suit, with a straw hat and brown shoes, while in his right hand he carried a thick Malacca cane. The exertion of climbing up the hill on which the ruined chapel stood apparently told upon him, for he was considerably out of breath when he passed under the ivy-clad arch. Here he stopped to wipe his face with a handkerchief, and while doing so dropped his cane. It fell upon the stones with a dull thud. At the same time the stranger gave vent to an exclamation that certainly was not English. The lads exchanged glances. Here was the beginning of a mystery. The heaviest Malacca cane would not have made that dull metallic sound in falling, while it was evident by the careful examination the stranger made of the retrieved article that he was more than considerate for its appearance. The man made no attempt to explore the ruins. The weather-worn fane had no attractions for him. It was apparently only a rendezvous, as far as he was concerned, for at frequent intervals he would walk stealthily through the archway, and look attentively down the hill leading to the coves on the side facing the mainland. It had now begun to rain—big drops that were the precursors of a heavy shower. The lads, in their exposed position on the tower, paid scant heed. Their interest and attention were centred upon the anxiously awaiting stranger fifty feet beneath them. Presently Ross happened to glance towards the stretch of water that separated St. Mena's Island from the mainland. A boat was approaching. Already it was more than half-way across. It was a rowing-boat, containing only one person. What object would anyone have in rowing across on a wet afternoon like this? wondered the lad. Just then the stranger began rubbing his hands with ill-concealed satisfaction. Although he had been frequently on the look-out, he had evidently only just caught sight of the approaching boat. The lads watched the little craft till it was hidden by the intervening high ground, but already Ross felt certain that it was making for Main Beach Cove. There were three landing-places on St. Mena's Island—Half Tide Cove, where the lads had left their stranded boat; Main Beach Cove, a little to the north-east; and Deadman's Cove, farther away. Of these, only Main Beach was available between one hour on either side of low water. The fact that the boat was making for it, and had already successfully skirted the submerged reef lying off it, proved that its occupant had local knowledge. Some considerable time elapsed between the temporary disappearance of the boat and the appearance of the new-comer; but at length he came into view, walking rapidly up the steep incline without showing anything of the physical strain that the first stranger had betrayed. Suddenly Ross Trefusis recognized the man. He almost felt inclined to laugh at his suspicions. It was Dr. Ramblethorne, the medical practitioner at St. Bedal—a town of considerable importance about seven miles from Killigwent Hall. The doctor was a frequent guest of Admiral Trefusis, and was generally considered a good, all-round sportsman. He was about thirty years of age, over six feet in height, of sinewy frame and of great muscular power. He was the wildest motorist in that part of Cornwall, as the endorsements on his driver's licence testified. A keen golfer, good shot, and fisherman, he was also a botanist; and that, perhaps, thought Ross, might account for his presence on St. Mena's Island, although it was difficult to reconcile the fact that Ramblethorne had an appointment with a stranger at this desolate spot. If a joint botanic expedition had been fixed up, why had not the two men met on the mainland? The unknown made no attempt to advance to meet the doctor. Instead, he remained within the ruins until Ramblethorne entered. Their greeting was a surprise even to the lads, for the doctor, holding out his hand, exclaimed in German: "Well met, von Ruhle! Let us hope that your arrangements will prove satisfactory." CHAPTER II The Tables Turned Both Ross Trefusis and Vernon Haye understood and could speak German. Ross was especially good in his knowledge of the language of the modern Hun, for in his early youth he had been inflicted with a German governess. Since German is one of the subjects for Sandhurst—for which both lads were preparing—their knowledge had been considerably improved under the cast-iron rule of a native professor. "Eminently satisfactory," replied von Ruhle. "We will go into details later. You had no difficulty in coming here, I hope?" "None whatever." "No suspicions?" asked von Ruhle anxiously. Ramblethorne smiled. "My dear von Ruhle," he replied. "A medical practitioner is above suspicion. He is free to go anywhere at any hour of the day or night without question. No man would suspect——" "You are clever, von Hauptwald——" "Ssh!" interrupted the doctor. "Call me Ramblethorne, if you please. Of course there is no danger here, but at other times and in other places you might incautiously give the show away. You had a good passage?" "Excellent," replied von Ruhle. "I am getting well-known to the strafed English custom-house officers at Queenboro' and Harwich. They recognize me by my stick, I believe, but they little know that it is a new one every time. What do you think of this? I have brought it as a specimen for you to see. Just fancy! every time I cross to Holland twenty kilogrammes of good copper are on their way to the Fatherland. By this time Herr Stabb of Essen is well acquainted with my Malacca canes."
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